“E-fuels” render combustion engines climate-neutral – electric mobility will increase markedly
“Electric mobility will experience a surge in popularity in the next few years. We can see the possibility that in 2025 between 15 and 25 percent of new registrations in Western Europe will already be passenger cars with electric drive, either as plug-in hybrids or as all-electric vehicles. However, politicians should resist the temptation to prescribe the technology for innovation. Some of the Greens want to see the end of the combustion engine in 2030 announced today – but this has not been thought through in terms of technology, economic policy or, above all, in terms of climate policy. The politicians should create smart and indeed demanding general conditions, but should not prescribe technology and certainly not ban specific technologies,” stressed Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), at the Handelsblatt Automotive Summit 2016 “Re-thinking mobility” in Munich. The VDA president headed a panel discussion with Winfried Kretschmann, State Premier of Baden-Württemberg, which was hosted by Sven Afhüppe, editor-in-chief of the business newspaper Handelsblatt.
“Neither the German Government nor the European Commission is calling for a ban on internal combustion engines from 2030,” Wissmann said. Instead, he explained, the Government’s Climate Action Plan was building on the assumption that the proportion of electric vehicles will rise continuously in the period to 2030. The European Commission also wanted its recently presented strategy for low-emission mobility to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from transport by the middle of the century. “But there is no doubt that in 2030 the combustion engine will still account for a very large share of the powertrains in use,” Wissmann underscored.
He added that climate protection was a global task in which the German automotive industry was also involved. By 2020, Wissmann said, the CO2 emissions from newly registered passenger cars in the EU would have come down by almost half compared with 1990 levels (186 grams) to 95 grams per kilometer. Right now the German automotive companies already had 255 models on offer, which consumed less than 4 liters of fuel to cover 100 kilometers in the NEDC standard cycle.
The VDA president drew attention to the potentials of synthetic fuels, called “e-fuels.” He stated, “They are changing the situation. These petroleum-independent ‘e-fuels’ could secure CO2-neutral mobility because they bind just as much CO2 during their production as they release during combustion.” At this time, he said, most of the technology was concentrated in development, and the costs were not yet comparable with those of conventional gasoline or diesel. “Yet when this type of fuel becomes ready for mass production, the combustion engine could experience a ‘second spring’,” Wissmann said. The idea of generating e-fuels from green electricity was fascinating. It could also be the answer to the question of storing electricity. This example alone showed how very open the innovation process was to new forward development. Wissmann added: “We will do well to keep all options open concerning powertrains and fuels.”